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Lessons from Nebraska Arts Advocacy Day

By Elizabeth Snell

A large group of arts advocates stand together with legislators in a historical building with wooden seating, state and national flags and stone walls behind them.

 “Advocacy is a wellness program, NOT an emergency room visit.” – Nebraskans for the Arts


Advocacy work is continuous. Sharing stories with legislators all year long is essential to keeping support for our creative communities and individuals strong.  

That’s the approach Nebraska’s arts advocates took at this year’s Arts Advocacy Day in Lincoln, Nebraska. Roughly 130 advocates convened at the Nebraska State Capitol on February 20, a perfect backdrop for the event. Adorned with elaborate mosaics, murals, and sculptures depicting the “Life of Man” theme, the capitol building showcases Nebraska’s rich cultural heritage and civic spirit.

Three people dressed in business-style clothing stand on mosaic tile floor in a large interior historic building with a temporary banner sign behind them that says Nebraskans for the Arts.

Lance Neilsen of Nebraskans for the Arts, Chris Hochstetler of the Stuhr Museum, and Margaret Keough of M-AAA at Nebraska Advocacy Day in Lincoln, NE.


Why do advocacy days matter?

Arts advocacy days offer an opportunity for people who are passionate about the arts and culture to connect with the local arts community, meet their lawmakers and legislators, and amplify the call for increased support for the arts and creative workers. 

Mid-America Arts Alliance’s Margaret Keough and Carla Patterson attended Nebraska’s arts advocacy day, rubbing elbows with fellow arts leaders, all with one mission: to galvanize support for the arts sector across the state. Emphasizing the proactive nature of advocacy, Nebraskans for the Arts likened it to a preventative wellness regimen rather than reactive crisis management.

Margaret, M-AAA’s director of advocacy, shared insights gleaned from conversations with representatives from Creative Districts spanning various communities. She underscored the transformative impact these initiatives have on towns across the state, including Hastings, Nebraska City, Scottsbluff, and Norfolk. Panel discussions moderated by Matt Borning, featuring Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, Senator Adam Morfeld, and seasoned advocate Rita Stinner, gave practical strategies for connecting with legislators to make our voices heard.

One thing Margaret emphasized is that anyone can get in on the action—you don’t need a fancy title or a big platform. Just start by building a relationship with your legislator. Be yourself, tell your story, and let them know why the arts and creativity matter to you and your community. The arts and artists are partners with education, tourism, economic development, and more. And hey, if you’ve got some stats to back it up (like Lincoln’s Arts & Economic Prosperity report from Americans for the Arts), even better!

Woman with dark hair speaks into a microphone behind a decoratively-carved wooden podium with flags behind her.

Margaret Keough speaks at Nebraska Advocacy Day.

If you’re feeling inspired and ready to dive in, consider joining Nebraskans for the Arts or your state’s arts advocacy organization. Membership in Nebraska starts at just $25 a year, and it’s money well spent. Our artists and creatives are the heartbeat of our communities, and they deserve all the support we can give them.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s roll up our sleeves, raise our voices, and make some magic happen for the arts! 


Get involved with your state’s arts advocacy organization:

Arkansans for the Arts Stay up to date by joining their mailing list.

Kansas – Advocates gather annually at the Kansas Arts Councils Symposium in the fall

Missouri Citizens for the Arts – Arts Advocacy week is annually in early February

Nebraskans for the Arts – Arts Advocacy day is annually in February. 

Oklahomans for the Arts – Save the date for Arts & Culture Day on April 11, 2024. Sign up for their updates here.

Texans For The ArtsContact them for questions and to get involved.


Learn more about how to contact your representatives and advocate for the arts.


Need the data and stories on your state?


View the State Profiles, offered by the National Endowment for the Arts.